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Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought, trans.

Albert Hofstadter
New York: Harper and Row, 1971.

.. . . POETICALLY MAN DWELLS . . "

The phrase is taken from a late poem by Holderlin, which


comes to us by a curious route. It begins: "In lovely blueness
blooms the steeple with metal roof." (Stuttgart edition 2, 1,
pp. 372 if.; Hellingrath VI, pp. 24 if.) If we are to hear the
phrase "poetically man dwells" rightly, we must restore it
thoughtfully to the poem. For that reason let us give thought to
the phrase. Let us clear up the doubts it immediately arouses.
For otherwise we should lack the free readiness to respond to
the phrase by following it.
". . . poetically man dwells .. ." If need be, we can
imagine that poets do on occasion dwell poetically. But how is
"man"-and this means every man and all the time-supposed
to dwell poetically? Does not all dwelling remain incompatible
with the poetic? Our dwelling is harassed by the housing
shortage. Even if that were not so, our dwelling today is harassed
by work, made insecure by the hunt for gain and success, be-
witched by the entertainment and recreation industry. But when
there is still room left in today's dwelling for the poetic, and
time is still set aside, what comes to pass is at best a preoccupa-
tion with aestheticizing, whether in writing or on the air. Poetry
is either rejected as a frivolous mooning and vaporizing into the
unknown, and a flight into dreamland, or is counted as a part
of literature. And the validity of literature is assessed by the
latest prevailing standard. The prevailing standard, in turn, is
made and controlled by the organs for making public civilized

213
214 POETRY, LANGUAGE,THOUGHT ". . . Poetically Man Dwelts . . ." 215
OpInIOns. One of its functionaries-at once driver and driven alongside many others. We work in the city, but dwell outside
-is the literature industry. In such a setting poetry cannot appear it. We travel, and dwell now here, now there. Dwelling so
otherwise than as literature. Where it is studied entirely in understood is always merely the occupying of a lodging.
educational and scientific terms, it is the object of literary history. When Holderlin speaks of dwelling, he has before his eyes the
Western poetry goes under the general heading of "European basic character of human existence. He sees the "poetic," more-
literature. " over, by way of its relation to this dwelling, thus understood
But if the sole form in which poetry exists is literary to start essentially.
with, then how can human dwelling be understood as based on This does not mean, though, that the poetic is merely an
the poetic? The phrase, "man dwells poetically," comes indeed ornament and bonus added to dwelling. Nor does the poetic
from a mere poet, and in fact from one who, we are told, character of dwelling mean merely that the poetic turns up in
could not cope with life. It is the way of poets to shut their some way or other in all dwelling. Rather, the phrase "poetically i

eyes to actuality. Instead of acting, they dream. What they make man dwells" says: poetry first causes dwelling to be dwelling.
is merely imagined. The things of imagination are merely made. Poetry is what really lets us dwell. But through what do we
Making is, in Greek, poiesis. And man's dwelling is supposed attain to a dwelling place? Through building. Poetic creation,
to be poetry and poetic? This can be assumed, surely, only by which lets us dwell, is a kind of building.
someone who stands aside from actuality and does not want to Thus we confront a double demand: for one thing, we are
see the existent condition of man's historical-social life today- to think of what is called man's existence by way of the nature
the sociologists call it the collective. of dwelling; for another, we are to think of the nature of poetry
But before we so bluntly pronounce dwelling and poetry in- as a letting-dwell, as a-perhaps even the-distinctive kind of
compatible, it may be well to attend soberly to the poet's state- building. If we search out the nature of poetry according to this
ment. It speaks of man's dwelling. It does not describe today's viewpoint, then we arrive at the nature of dwelling.
dwelling conditions. Above all, it does not assert that to dwell But where do we humans get our information about the
means to occupy a house, a dwelling place. Nor does it say that nature of dwelling and poetry? Where does man generally get
the poetic exhausts itself in an unreal play of poetic imagination. the claim to arrive at the nature of something? Man can make
What thoughtful man, therefore, would presume to declare, such a claim only where he receives it. He receives it from the
unhesitatingly and from a somewhat dubious elevation, that telling of language. Of course, only when and only as long as he
dwelling and the poetic are incompatible? Perhaps the two can respects language's own nature. Meanwhile, there rages round
bear with each other. This is not all. Perhaps one even bears the the earth an unbridled yet clever talking, writing, and broadcast-
other in such a way that dwelling rests on the poetic. If this is ing of spoken words. Man acts as though he were the shaper and
indeed what we suppose, then we are required to think of dwell- master of language, while in fact language remains the master
ing and poetry in terms of their essential nature. If we do not of man. When this relation of dominance gets inverted, man hits
balk at this demand, we think of what is usually called the upon strange maneuvers. Language becomes the means of expres-
existence of man in terms of dwelling. In doing so, we do of sion. As expression, language can decay into a mere medium for
course give up the customary notion of dwelling. According to the printed word. That even in such employment of language we
that idea, dwelling remains merely one form of human behavior retain a concern for care in speaking is all to the good. But this
216 POETRY,LANGUAGE,THOUGHT It • •• Poetically Man Dwells . .." 217
alone will never help us to escape from the inversion of the it is just the reverse. The restriction is denoted by the expression
true relation of dominance between language and man. For, "Full of merit," to which we must add in thought a "to be sure."
strictly, it is language that speaks. Man first speaks when, and Man, to be sure, merits and earns much in his dwelling. For
only when, he responds to language by listening to its appeal. he cultivates the growing things of the earth and takes care of ,
Among all the appeals that we human beings, on our part, may his increase. Cultivating and caring (colere, cultura) are a kind
help to be voiced, language is the highest and everywhere the of building. But man not only cultivates what produces growth
first. Language beckons us, at first and then again at the end. out of itself; he also builds in the sense of aediftcare, by erecting
toward a thing's nature. But that is not to say, ever, that in any things that cannot come into being and subsist by growing.
word-meaning picked up at will language supplies us, straight Things that are built in this sense include not only buildings-but
away and definitively, with the transparent nature of the matter all the works made by man's hands and through his arrange-
as if it were an object ready for use. But the responding in which ments. Merits due to this building, however, can never fill out
man authentically listens to the appeal of language is that which the nature of dwelling. On the contrary, they even deny dwelling
i speaks in the element of poetry. The more poetic a poet is- its own nature when they are pursued and acquired purely for
the freer (that is, the more open and ready for the unforeseen) their own sake. For in that case these merits, precisely by their
his saying-the greater is the purity with which he submits what abundance, would everywhere constrain dwelling within the
he says to an ever more painstaking listening, and the further bounds of this kind of building. Such building pursues the
what he says is from the mere propositional statement that is fulfillment of the needs of dwelling. Building in the sense of
dealt with solely in regard to its correctness or incorrectness. the farmer's cultivation of growing things, and of the erecting
of edifices and works and the production of tools, is already a
" . . . poetically man dwells . . . " consequence of the nature of dwelling, but it is not its ground,
let alone its grounding. This grounding must take place in a
says the poet. We hear H6lderlin's words more clearly when different building. Building of the usual kind, often practiced
we take them back into the poem in which they belong. First, exclusively and therefore the only one that is familiar, does of
let us listen only to the two lines from which we have detached course bring an abundance of merits into dwelling. Yet man is
and thus clipped the phrase. They run: capable of dwelling only if he has already built, is building,
and remains disposed to build, in another way.
Full of merit, yet poetically, man "Full of merit (to be sure), yet poetically, man dwells.
Dwells on this earth. . . ." This is followed in the text by the words: "on this
earth." We might be inclined to think the addition superfluous;
The keynote of the lines vibrates in the word "poetically." This for dwelling, after all, already means man's stay on earth-
word is set off in two directions: by what comes before it and by on "this" earth, to which every mortal knows himself to be
what follows. entrusted and exposed.
Before it are the words: "Full of merit, yet . . . ." They But when Holderlin ventures to say that the dwelling of
sound almost as if the next word, "poetically," introduced a mortals is poetic, this statement, as soon as it is made, gives the
restriction on the profitable, meritorious dwelling of man. But impression that, on the contrary, "poetic" dwelling snatches
218 POETRY, LANGUAGE, THOUGHT If• • • Poetically Man Dwells .. .n 219

man away from the earth. For the "poetic," when it is taken as settling of differences that the gathering nature of sameness
poetry, is supposed to belong to the realm of fantasy. Poetic comes to light. The same banishes all zeal always to level what
dwelling flies fantastically above reality. The poet counters this is different into the equal or identical. The same gathers what is
misgiving by saying expressly that poetic dwelling is a dwelling distinct into an orginal being-at-one. The equal, on the contrary,
"on this earth." Holderlin thus not only protects the "poetic" disperses them into the dull unity of mere uniformity. Holderlin,
from a likely misinterpretation, but by adding the words "on in his own way, knew of these relations. In an epigram which
this earth" expressly points to the nature of poetry. Poetry does bears the title "Root of All Evil" (Stuttgart edition, I, 1, p.
not fly above and surmount the earth in order to escape it and 305) he says:
hover over it. Poetry is what first brings man onto the earth,
making him belong to it, and thus brings him into dwelling. Being at one is godlike and good; whence, then,
this craze among men that there should exist only
Full of merit, yet poetically, man One, why should all be one?
Dwells on this earth.
When we follow in thought Holderlin's poetic statement
Do we know now why man dwells poetically? We still do about the poetic dwelling of man, we divine a path by which,
not. We now even run the risk of intruding foreign thoughts through what is thought differently, we come nearer to thinking
into Holderlin's poetic words. For HOlderlin indeed speaks of the same as what the poet composes in his poem.
man's dwelling and his merit, but still he does not connect But what does Holderlin say of the poetic dwelling of man?
dwelling with building, as we have just done. He does not We seek the answer to the question by listening to lines 24 to
speak of building, either in the sense of cultivating and erecting, 38 of our poem. For the two lines on which we first commented
or in such a way as even to represent poetry as a special kind of are spoken from their region. Holderlin says:
building. Accordingly, Holderlin does not speak of poetic
dwelling as our own thinking does. Despite all this, we are May, if life is sheer toil, a man
thinking the same thing that HOlderlin is saying poetically. Lift his eyes and say: so
It is, however, important to take note here of an essential I too wish to be? Yes. As long as Kindness,
point. A short parenthetical remark is needed. Poetry and think- The Pure, still stays with his heart, man
ing meet each other in one and the same only when, and only as Not unhappily measures himself
long as, they remain distinctly in the distinctness of their nature. Against the godhead. Is God unknown?
The same never coincides with the equal, not even in the empty Is he manifest like the sky? r d sooner
indifferent oneness of what is merely identical. The equal or Believe the latter. It's the measure of man.
identical always moves toward the absence of difference, so Full of merit, yet poetically, man
that everything may be reduced to a common denominator. The Dwells on this earth. But no purer
same, by contrast, is the belonging together of what differs, Is the shade of the starry night,
through a gathering by way of the difference. We can only say If I might put it so, than
"the same" if we think difference. It is in the carrying out and Man, who's called an image of the godhead.
.,;,"
220 POETRY, LANGUAGE, THOUGHT fl • • • Poetically Man DweJJs . . ." 221

Is there a measure on earth? There is the heavenly. Man does not undertake this spanning just now
None. . and then; rather, man is man at all only in such spanning. This
is why he can indeed block this spanning, trim it, and disfigure
We shall think over only a few points in these lines, and for it, but he can never evade it. Man, as man, has always measured
the sole purpose of hearing more clearly what Holderlin means himself with and against something heavenly. Lucifer, too, is
when he calls man's dwelling a "poetic" one. The first lines descended from heaven. Therefore we read in the next lines
(24 to 26) give us a clue. They are in the form of a question (28 to 29): "Man measures himself against the godhead." The
that is answered confidently in the affirmative. The quec;tion is godhead is the "measure" with which man measures out his
a paraphrase of what the lines already expounded utter directly: dwelling, his stay on the earth beneath the sky. Only insofar as
"Full of merit, yet poetically, man dwells on this earth." Holder- man takes the measure of his dwelling in this way is he able to
lin asks: be commensurately with his nature. Man's dwelling depends on
an upward-looking measure-taking of the dimension, in which
May, if life is sheer toil, a man the sky belongs just as much as the earth.
Lift his eyes and say: so This measure-taking not only takes the measure of the earth,
I too wish to be? Yes. ge, and accordingly it is no mere geo-metry. Just as little does it
ever take the measure of heaven, ourauos, for itself. Measure-
Only in the realm of sheer toil does man toil for "merits." taking is no science. Measure-taking gauges the between, which
There he obtains them for himself in abundance. But at the brings the two, heaven and earth, to one another. This measure-
same time, in this realm, man is allowed to look up, out of it, taking has its own metron, and thus its own metric.
through it, toward the divinities. The upward glance passes aloft Man's taking measure in the dimension dealt out to him
toward the sky, and yet it remains below on the earth. The up- brings dwelling into its ground plan. Taking the measure of
ward glance spans the between of sky and earth. This between the dimension is the element within which human dwelling
is measured out for the dwelling of man. We now call the span has its security, by which it securely endures. The taking of >

thus meted out the dimension. This dimension does not arise measure is what is poetic in dwelling. Poetry is a measuring.
from the fact that sky and earth are turned toward one another. But what is it to measure? If poetry is to be understood as
Rather, their facing each other itself depends on the dimension. measuring, then obviously we may not subsume it under just
Nor is the dimension a stretch of space as ordinarily understood; any idea of measuring and measure.
for everything spatial, as something for which space is made, is Poetry is presumably a high and special kind of measuring.
already in need of the dimension, that is, that into which it is But there is more. Perhaps we have. to pronounce the sentence,
admitted. "Poetry is a measuring," with a different stress. "Poetry is a
The nature of the dimension is the meting out-which is measuring." In poetry there takes place what all measuring is in
lightened and so can be spanned-of the between: the upward the ground of its being. Hence it is necessary to pay heed to the
to the sky as well as the downward to earth. We leave the nature basic act of measuring. That consists in man's first of all taking
of the dimension without a name. According to Holderlin's the measure which then is applied in every measuring act. In
words, man spans the dimension by measuring himself against poetry the taking of measure occurs. To write poetry is measure-
222 POETRY, LANGUAGE, THOUGHT ". . . Poetically Man Dwells . . ." 223

taking, understood in the strict sense of the word, by which way? The very next words give the answer. They say tersely:
man first receives the measure for the breadth of his being. Man "It's the measure of man." What is the measure for human
exists as a mortal. He is called mortal because he can die. To be measuring? God? No. The sky? No. The manifestness of the
able to die means: to be capable of death as death. Only man sky? No. The measure consists in the way in which the god
dies-and indeed continually, so long as he stays on this earth, who remains unknown, is revealed as such by the sky. God's
so long as he dwells. His dwelling, however, rests in the poetic. appearance through the sky consists in a disclosing that lets us
Holderlin sees the nature of the "poetic" in the taking of the see what conceals itself, but lets us see it not by seeking to wrest
measure by which the measure-taking of human being is accom- what is concealed out of its concealedness, but only by guarding
plished. the concealed in its self-concealment. Thus the unknown god
Yet how shall we prove that Holderlin thinks of the nature of appears as the unknown by way of the sky's manifestness. This
poetry as taking measure? We do not need to prove anything appearance is the measure against which man measures himself.
here. All proof is always only a subsequent undertaking on the A strange measure, perplexing it would seem to the common
basis of presuppositions. Anything at all can be proved, depend- notions of mortals, inconvenient to the cheap omniscience of
ing only on what presuppositions are made. But we can here everyday opinion, which likes to claim that it is the standard
pay heed only to a few points. It is enough, then, if we attend for all thinking and reflection.
to the poet's own words. For in the next lines Holderlin inquires, A strange measure for ordinary and in particular also for all
before anything else and in fact exclusively, as to man's measure. merely scientific ideas, certainly not a palpable stick or rod but
That measure is the godhead against which man measures him- in truth simpler to handle than they, provided our hands do not
self. The question begins in line 29 with the words: "Is God abruptly grasp but are guided by gestures befitting the measure
unknown?" Manifestly not. For if he were unknown, how could here to be taken. This is done by a taking which at no time
he, being unknown, ever be the measure? Yet-and this is what clutches at the standard but rather takes it in a concentrated
we must now listen to and keep in mind-for Holderlin God, perception, a gathered taking-in, that remains a listening.
as the one who he is, is unknown and it is just as this Unknown But why should this measure, which is so strange to us men
One that he is the measure for the poet. This is also why Holder- of today, be addressed to man and imparted by the measure-tak-
lin is perplexed by the exciting question: how can that which ing of poetry? Because only this measure gauges the very nature
by its very nature remains unknown ever become a measure? For of man. For man dwells by spanning the "on the earth" and
something that man measures himself by must after all impart the "beneath the sky." This "on" and "beneath" belong to-
itself, must appear. But if it appears, it is known. The god, gether. Their interplay is the span that man traverses at every
however, is unknown, and he is the measure nonetheless. Not moment insofar as he is as an earthly being. In a fragment
only this, but the god who remains unknown, must by showing (Stuttgart edition, 2, 1, p. 334) Holderlin says:
himself as the one he is, appear as the one who remains un-
known. God's manifestness-not only he himself-is mysterious. Always, love! the earth
Therefore the poet immediately asks the next question: "Is he moves and heaven holds.
manifest like the sky?" Holderlin answers: ''I'd sooner/Believe
the latter." Because man is, in his enduring the dimension, his being must
Why-so we now ask-is the poet's surmise inclined in that now and again be measured out. That requires a measure which
224 POETRY, LANGUAGE,THOUGHT fr. • • Poetically Man Dwells . . ." 225
involves at once the whole dimension in one. To discern this fore? Who is the god? Perhaps this question is too hard for
measure, to gauge it as the measure, and to accept it as the man, and asked too soon. Let us therefore first ask what may
measure, means for the poet to make poetry. Poetry is this be said about God. Let us first ask merely: What is God?
measure-taking-its taking, indeed, for the dwelling of man. Fortunately for us, and helpfully, some verses of Holderlin's
For immediately after the words "It's the measure of man" have been preserved which belong in substance and time to the
there follow the lines: "Full of merit, yet poetically, man dwells ambience of the poem "In lovely blueness. . . ." They begin
on this earth." (Stuttgart edition, 2, 1, p. 210):
Do we now know what the "poetic" is for Holderlin? Yes
and no. Yes, because we receive an intimation about how poetry What is God? Unknown, yet
is to be thought of: namely, it is to be conceived as a distinctive Full of his qualities is the
kind of measuring. No, because poetry, as the gauging of that Face of the sky. For the lightnings
strange measure, becomes ever more mysterious. And so it Are the wrath of a god. The more something
must doubtless remain, if we are really prepared to make our Is invisible, the more it yields to what's alien.
stay in the domain of poetry's being.
Yet it strikes us as strange that Holderlin thinks of poetry as What remains alien to the god, the sight of the sky-this is
a measuring. And rightly so, as long as we understand measur- what is familiar to man. And what is that? Everything that
ing only in the sense current for us. In this sense, by the use of shimmers and blooms in the sky and thus under the sky and thus
something known-measuring rods and their number-some- on earth, everything that sounds and is fragrant, rises and
thing unknown is stepped off and thus made known, and so is comes-but also everything that goes and stumbles, moans and
confined within a quantity and order which can always be deter- falls silent, pales and darkens. Into this, which is intimate to
mined at a glance. Such measuring can vary with the type of man but alien to the god, the unknown imparts himself, in order
apparatus employed. But who will guarantee that this customary to remain guarded within it as the unknown. But the poet calls
kind of measuring, merely because it is common, touches the all the brightness of the sights of the sky and every sound of
nature of measuring? When we hear of measure, we immediately its courses and breezes into the singing word and there makes
think of number and imagine the two, measure and number, as them shine and ring. Yet the poet, if he is a poet, does not
quantitative. But the nature of measure is no more a quantum describe the mere appearance of sky and earth. The poet calls,
than is the nature of number. True, we can reckon with num- in the sights of the sky, that which in its very self-disclosure
bers-but not with the nature of number. When HOiderlin causes the appearance of that which conceals itself, and indeed
envisages poetry as a measuring, and above all himself achieves as that which conceals itself. In the familiar appearances, the
poetry as taking measure, then we, in order to think of poetry, poet calls the alien as that to which the invisible imparts itself
must ever and again first give thought to the measure that is in order to remain what it is-unknown.
taken in poetry; we must pay heed to the kind of taking here, The poet makes poetry only when he takes the measure, by
which does not consist in a clutching or any other kind of grasp- saying the sights of heaven in such a way that he submits to its
ing, but rather in a letting come of what has been dealt out. appearances as to the alien element to which the unknown god
What is the measure for poetry? The godhead; God, there- has "yielded." Our current name for the sight and appearance
226 POETRY, LANGUAGE,THOUGHT n. • • Poetically Man Dwells . . ." 227
of something is "image." The nature of the image is to let some- And he must reply: "There is none." Why? Because what we
thing be seen. By contrast, copies and imitations are already signify when we say "on the earth" exists only insofar as man
mere variations on the genuine image which, as a sight or dwells on the earth and in his dwelling lets the earth be as earth.
spectacle, lets the invisible be seen and so imagines the invisible But dwelling occurs only when poetry comes to pass and is
in something alien to it. Because poetry takes that mysterious present, and indeed in the way whose nature we now have
measure, to wit, in the face of the sky, therefore it speaks in some idea of, as taking a measure for all measuring. This
"images." This is why poetic images are imaginings in a dis- measure-taking is itself an authentic measure-taking, no mere
tinctive sense: not mere fancies and illusions but imaginings gauging with ready-made measuring rods for the making of
that are visible inclusions of the alien in the sight of the familiar. maps. Nor is poetry building in the sense of raising and fitting
The poetic saying of images gathers the brightness and sound buildings. But poetry, as the authentic gauging of the dimension
of the heavenly appearances into one with the darkness and of dwelling, is the primal for~ of building. Poetry first of all
silence of what is alien. By such sights the god surprises us. In admits man's dwelling into its very nature, its presencing being.
this strangeness he proclaims his unfaltering nearness. For that Poetry is the original admission of dwelling.
reason Holderlin, after the lines "Full of merit, yet poetically, The statement, Man dwells in that he builds, has now been
man Dwells on this earth," can continue: given its proper sense. Man does not dwell in that he merely
establishes his stay on the earth beneath the sky, by raising
. . . Yet no purer growing things and simultaneously raising buildings. Man is
Is the shade of the starry night, capable of such building only if he already builds in the sense
If I might put it so, than of the p~tic taking of measure. Authentic building occurs so far
Man, who's called an image of the godhead. as there are poets, such poets as take the measure for architecture,
the structure of dwelling.
"The shade of the night"-the night itself is the shade, that On March 12, 1804 Holderlin writes from Niirtingen to his
darkness which can never become a mere blackness because as friend Leo von Seckendorf: "At present I am especially occu-
shade it is wedded to light and remains cast by it. The measure pied with the fable, the poetic view of history, and the architec-
taken by poetry yields, imparts itself-as the foreign element in tonics of the skies, especially of our nation's, so far as it differs
which the invisible one preserves his presence-to what is from the Greek" (Hellingrath V 2 , p. 333).
familiar in the sights of the sky. Hence, the measure is of the
same nature as the sky. But the sky is not sheer light. The radi- " . . . poetically, man dwells .
ance of its height is itself the darkness of its all-sheltering
breadth. The blue of the sky's lovely blueness is the color of Poetry builds up the very nature of dwelling. Poetry and
depth. The radiance of the sky is the dawn and dusk of the dwelling not only do not exclude each other; on the contrary,
twilight, which shelters everything that can be proclaimed. This poetry and dwelling belong together, each calling for the other.
sky is the measure. This is why the poet must ask: "Poetically man dwells." Do we dwell poetically? Presumably
we dwell altogether unpoetically. If that is so, does it give the
Is there a measure on earth? lie to the poet's words; are they untrue? No. The truth of his
228 POETRY, LANGUAGE, THOUGHT ". . . Poetically Man DweJJs . . ." 229
utterance is confirmed in the most unearthly way. For dwelling this word, if we take it literally, is Holderlin's magnificent
can be unpoetic only because it is in essence POetic. For a mart translation for the Greek word charis. In his Ajax, Sophocles
to be blind, he must remain a being by nature endowed with says of charis (verse 522):
sight. A piece of wood can never go blind. But when man goes
blind, there always remains the question whether his blindness Charis charin gar estin he tiktollJ aei.
derives from some defect and loss or lies in an abundance and
excess. In the same poem that meditates on the measure for all For kindness it is, that ever calls forth kindness.
measuring, Holderlin says (lines 75-76): "King Oedipus has
perhaps one eye too many." Thus it might be that our unpoetic "As long as Kindness, the Pure, still stays with his heart .
dwelling, its incapacity to take the measure, derives from a Holderlin says in an idiom he liked to use: "with his heart,"
curious excess of frantic measuring and calculating. not "in his heart." That is, it has come to the dwelling being of
That we dwell unpoetically, and in what way, we can in any man, come as the claim and appeal of the measure to the heart
case learn only if we know the poetic. Whether, and when, we in such a way that the heart turns to give heed to the measure.
may come to a turning point in our unpoetic dwelling is some- As long as this arrival of kindness endures, so long does man
thing we may expect to happen only if we remain heedful of succeed in measuring himself not unhappily against the godhead.
the poetic. How and to what extent our doings can share in this When this measuring appropriately comes to light, man creates
turn we alone can prove, if we take the poetic seriously. poetry from the very nature of the poetic. When the poetic
The poetic is the basic capacity for human dwelling. But man appropriately comes to light, then man dwells humanly on this
is capable of poetry at any time only to the degree to which his earth, and then-as HOiderlin says in his last poem-"the life
being is appropriate to that which itself has a liking for man of man" is a "dwelling life" (Stuttgart edition, 2, 1, p. 312).
and therefore needs his presence. Poetry is authentic or inau-
Vista
thentic according to the degree of this appropriation.
That is why authentic poetry does not come to light appro- When far the dwelling life of man into the distance goes,
priately in every period. When and for how long does authen- Where, in that far distance, the grapevine's season glows,
tic poetry exist? Holderlin gives the answer in verses 26-69, There too are summer's fields, emptied of their growing,
already cited. Their explication has been purposely deferred And forest looms, its image darkly showing.
until now. The verses run: That Nature paints the seasons so complete,
That she abides, but they glide by so fleet,
. . . As long as Kindness, Comes of perfection; then heaven's radiant height
The Pure, still stays with his heart, man Crowns man, as blossoms crown the trees, with light.
Not unhappily measures himself
Against the Godhead. . . .

"Kindness"-what is it? A harmless word, but described by


Holderlin with the capitalized epithet "the Pure." "Kindness"-